From very early on, moms of daughters, I think, start to consider how their little girl will deal with boys, and eventually men under the guise of the sexism that still runs rampant today. We teach our girls to stand up for themselves and not cower to boys on the playground or dismiss their intelligence to appeal to teen boys later on, but how do we instruct our young women to live amidst a society that is still (despite the ground breaking work of Gloria Steinem and all those who came before and after her) blatantly sexist?
I think that by not tolerating sexist behavior from the men in our lives is a good start. But that doesn’t just mean husbands and boyfriends. It also means fathers and sons, coworkers and bosses. Yesterday on Fox & Friends, members of the U.S. Navy Band were interviewed about the band’s recent decision to include women. When the segment was over, anchor Brian Kilmeade said, “Women are everywhere. We’re letting them play golf and tennis now. It’s out of control.”
This irked the only female host of the show, Gretchen Carlson, who walked off of the set, and said: “You read the headlines. Since men are so great. Take them [women] away.” A noticeably uncomfortable Kilmeade replied, “All right. Finally. Leaving an all male crew” and then very oddly said “she needed a shower.” Carlson was mildly laughing as she exited but you can tell she was offended and leaving out of protest, or was it a joke?
People have been discussing it. Was it even sexist? Should she have laughed? Should she have handled it another way? Was she being unprofessional? I’d like to think she took a stand while maintaining her professionalism. After all, it wouldn’t be all that professional to scream at her sexist co-host or demean him, would it? Perhaps she couldn’t find the exact words to counter him in a clever way because she was just that mad.
I don’t think we should focus on what she could have done; rather, we should look at her reluctance to go along with such an ingrained part of society as a sign of progress. None of us should smile and nod at the many sexist jokes that still circle today just to keep the peace- even if you are on live TV. Some say that obviously working for Fox News isn’t going to be the most enlightening atmosphere for a female, but I maintain that we should work anywhere we choose without recrimination. We shouldn’t have to feel that any news station is off limits to women because they boast a predominantly traditional male slant. In fact, those are the exact organizations that need strong women to counter the traditional stereotypes.
Is it possible that Kilmeade didn’t mean any harm by it and just thought it was funny? Sure. Did his words help to view women as equal partners rather than sexual objects? No. Incidentally if you do a Google search on Carlson, you’ll notice that when you’re half way finished typing in her name the following words will auto-fill: “Gretchen Carlson legs.”
We should have equal rights all across the board; this isn’t anything new. We know this, and collectively, shouldn’t allow it. Yet even female doctors who have completed the exact same training and preparation still receive much less than male doctors. A recent survey of 800 doctors in the middle of their careers, found that the annual salary was on average $200,000 for men and $168,000 for women (a difference of $32,000!). Will that large salary discrepancy and the many others like it ever be changed by an anchor walking off her set when her male anchor makes a sexist comment?
Yes and no.
Of course, Carlson’s actions won’t change anything immediately, but perhaps it will send a signal to other hosts to not speak with sexist undertones. Already people are talking about it. Who among us hasn’t found themselves in the company of a male making a sexist remark? We all have a different reaction to it. Some women will counter with a joke right back at them. Others will set them straight. And still way too many others will just keep silent.
Maybe Carlson’s speedy exit will force Kilmeade to reexamine his stance and role. More importantly, it might illustrate, for all girls and women, a very simple fact: that underneath these supposed little jokes beats the heart of sexism and by calling out the so-called jokesters on their offensive remarks, you are saying that it’s not OK now… and it never will be.
Do you think Carlson exited in a protest or a joke? Was she masking her anger with a laugh? Should she have been offended? Does that offend you? Can you remember a time when you were caught with someone making sexist remarks? What is the best way to teach our girls to stand up against sexism?
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